So… You miss the money when you stop shooting for hire and you don’t feel you are learning unless you are working for others?
Megan, here’s the thing. You are calling yourself a pro by being in business presenting yourself as a photog for hire, and offering/marketing your services to people. Not only that, but you are undercutting and devaluing legit pro togs work in your area by having so little overhead. You give CDs, most likely don’t pay income taxes or charge any sales tax on products. You’re most likely uninsured and unlicensed as well, no studio to maintain, no dues to pay, I assume no back up equipment/cameras lenses to maintain, you dont have to maintain or pay for a website or marketing material, you most likely dont have multiple ways to back up your clients images and just rely on your HD, you don’t have employees to pay, or the many other expenses of being in business. You have the luxury to aford not make a profit (even though you are), where others who are in the business legitly count on their photography income to feed their families. There’s no law against this (well minus the taxes. You may want to look into what your laws are as far as hobby income, service taxes and what not. And did you know that your personal property insurance will not cover a camera used to make money?), and there is no need to worry about other togs and how you effect them. Absolutely NONE This is your business after all, And what works for you works for you. But, you asked, and wanted to know how other photographers felt about what you were doing. This is how I feel about it.
imagine if you went through the steps of investing years, both in your photography, and your business to become pro, and here’s this semi talented new tog that only invested the very minimum into her photography and isn’t even running a legit business but still turns a profit. Not only that, but under the table while you pay taxes and struggle to keep afloat. (YOU may not be competing with anyone, but only because you, like so many others have the luxury not to have to) Now times that new tog by at least 10, and throw in some no talent hacks that are only in it for a few bucks, and you got yourself a mess. This is the state of the industry today, and I personally feel that you are contributing to it, wether unknowingly or not.
You say that you print/finish your personal work, why then, don’t you take pride in your clients images the same way? I’m just trying to understand. If you understand the work involved with printing and the value of it, why then do you make your clients take on the task, and then most likely only end up with some images for Facebook when all is said and done? Is it because you make more money by not finishing your clients images, or is it because of the effort and time it takes? Would you expect a pro tog to finish your images for you if you hired them?
if this inquiry was more about how to improve your photography and not your business :
the very best thing you can do to help your photography is to shoot for yourself. turn off that people pleasing unable to say no person, and shoot for yourself. You already love your personal work, why not expand on that. Take time out for yourself and your photography, say”no” and see how quickly your photography improves and develops without the extra pressures of being for hire and shooting for others.